Jo Keppler - year end reflection
Comparing oneself to others stops growth
Finally, some quiet time. It’s the end of another year and here I am sitting on a couch in the Transkei, tired legs from a long beach and trail run while my boys are out fishing, despite the terrible weather conditions. I asked Dave (my husband) and Leo (my 11-year-old son) why they were going out on the boat when it’s so cold and rainy, to which they responded “why do you run whether it’s pouring with rain, snow or 50 degrees Celsius” – touché!
To be honest this is the first time in the last three months that I have just slowed down and sat with my thoughts, being able to process what it is that has been going on for me and now finally putting pen to paper about some of my personal experiences. I have attempted several blog posts over the past few months, including my Karkloof 100 miler win, my hugh-massive (a word made up by Leo when you combine humongous and massive) learning curve at UTCT 100km and how comparing myself to others has only led to me questioning my ability rather than pushing me to become better or to work harder. The comparison has made me feel insecure, question my abilities and focus on what I am not, rather than what I AM and the qualities that make me good at being Jo. In hindsight the comparison even held me back from sending this blog post to Saucony as I constantly re-read what I had written, criticising every word. That’s when I began to understand that my self-scrutiny was getting to a point where self-expression had become something I would rather keep to myself for fear of being judged - a dangerous place for someone like me, my head is like a bad neighbourhood, not a good place to explore alone.
Post Karkloof 100 Miler I was approached from Saucony as a shoe sponsor, I was completely blown away and my initial thoughts were “what if I don’t meet their expectations, what if I let them down, who else is a Saucony athlete”. I soon learned it was none other than Ann Ashworth, the Comrades 2018 champion and probably one of the best female long-distance runners in South Africa.. I figured if the bar was set high and I would have to achieve x, y and z or else I am just going to embarrass myself and this prestigious brand.
I started chatting to Ann as we have known each other since school days, and we planned a few runs together including a berg weekend. I was initially very intimated by her and felt that I was way over my head in terms of trying to keep up but she was so kind and welcoming, not trying to undermine or intimidate me at all. In fact, it was quite the contrary, she was encouraging and was the one who urged me to do UTCT 100km. If I had listened to my mad head, I never would have reached out to her because of the fear of not feeling good enough, and I would never had made such a wonderful friend. Don’t get me wrong, there were many times when In would compare myself with her and think “what are you doing Jo, you don’t even look like an athlete” but what I did with those thoughts was expose them. I told her my crazy views of myself to which she responded, “you are mad” and we would laugh about it instead of me panting like an old Labrador trying to keep up with a heart rate of 180 and then going home obsessing about how slow and big I am. Yes, that’s my head, I see myself as big and slow - some people may criticise me for saying that, but I have to be honest and expose all the madness because I think a lot of young women feel this way but just say nothing. They feel like they must have this self-assured, confident and “be happy with the body you have been given and we are so blessed” attitude, The reality is we simply don’t always feel that way.
I had never met Mia Goslett from Saucony but felt like I had known her my entire life while we texted and sent voice notes, she just “got me” and was happy to help with shoe selection and what feels right for me with no added pressure. I had the great pleasure of meeting her and Ayesha when I was in Cape Town for UTCT. I felt as though in was home as soon as I sat down with the lovely ladies. No judgement, no expectation and I felt as though I was not there trying to prove anything or gain acceptance. Wow what a feeling, I am enough. This is exactly where I need to be, I knew that this is the brand for me because for the first time I felt happy with who I am and where I go is part of the journey. A journey that we are on together as a team.
I still have a lot to learn and am growing daily. You’ve heard it a hundred times – if you’re not growing, you’re dying but remember growth comes in many shapes and sizes and is not always obvious or tangible so it’s important to never use achievement as a gauge to measure growth. Growth is not always bigger or quantitively measured by the way you or society thinks it should be measured. I am realising that I am experiencing growth in patience and acceptance of who I am.
When I was in treatment someone once told me life is difficult. That really got me thinking. Sure, life is about unknown potential, limitations, setbacks, fear and pain. It’s about disease, loss, and grief. It’s about uncertainty and unknowns. It’s about challenges at work, not getting the result you want at a race, experiencing strained relationships with the people you love, perhaps waiting for a phone call from the doctor, and rising bills. But life is about more than just growing. These incredibly uncomfortable moments are opportunities for personal growth. Life is full of difficult times, but it’s also filled with hope, inspiration, dreams, and vision. Life isn’t all about prosperity and winning the race, but it can be about growth. If you are going to grow, then it must be on purpose for a purpose – intentionally, and with intention. So, whatever you’re going through, deal with it intentionally. Don’t prolong the pain by sitting in self-pity, questioning why this has happened to you and asking the universe why life is unfair. You need to make the decision of what step you can take today to start the process of your personal growth, no matter what it looks like to others.
Life is a series of new beginnings and aren’t we lucky that every day is a new beginning of the rest of your life?